I’ll be honest with you all, this might be the easiest blog post I’ve ever written, and that’s because I’ve done basically nothing to it.
Typically when we profile our members, I send them a list of questions, they type out those responses, and then I take the responses, edit them down, write a cute little intro and throw it on the internet. That didn’t really happen this time.
Instead, hygge member Josh Dilmaghani, the owner and operator of White Stag Realty in Charlotte, reached out to me and said, “Hey, how do I get on the website.” And I said, “Good sir, I’m glad you ask.” I sent over my questions and he sent them back immediately. And when I started to read through them, I realized pretty quickly that although the answers were lengthy, they were funny as hell and incredibly informative. So I didn’t change a damn thing.
I don’t even really want to introduce anything here because Josh did it so well, but I’ll at least give you enough to get hooked. Josh started White Stag Realty just over 4 years ago with a business partner in Indianapolis, Indiana. The pair had a really unconventional idea: what if they had a real estate firm that charged a lower commission than the rest of their competitors?
Pretty wild, right? In a world where everyone is raising prices, Josh and his partner decided to ask for less – and it’s worked out incredibly well for them. They’re saving customers money, they have a much higher retention rate of agents than the industry standard, and their business reviews are glowing.
And that’s where the intro ends. To learn the why and how and what, read the rest of this post, which is sure to make you chuckle a few times as well as leave you feeling grateful for Josh’s honesty.
What led you to start White Stag Realty and when?
Loaded question. I think I was genuinely sick and tired of white-collar America (had previously worked in event management in a convention hotel and then spent time working in a shared office space that’s KINDA like hygge in concept, but much more “corporatized”). One of my clients at my last real job was an attorney who had the idea for our business model and was just waiting to find the right person/people to help him get it started. We met, and after a few months of getting to know each other, he popped the question (so to speak) and asked me if I wanted to start a low commission real estate firm with him. He was kind of my professional sugar daddy, as he put up the money, did all the legal stuff, etc. to get us started, and I was the blood, sweat and tears (emphasis on the tears).
Neither of us had ever done sales or anything real estate related, and we started a real estate firm. How, you ask? Well, in Indiana, the law says you have to have a real estate license for 2 years (which Jeff had done, again, kinda knowing he wanted to give this thing a shot), and then you can start a company. It DOESN’T say that in that 2 years you have to have sold a home. Wild, but it is what it is. Similarly, North Carolina says you have to have had your license in a full time capacity for 2 years, but again, has no definition of what “full time” means and has no requirements regarding production. Terrifying.
We officially started in Jan of 2019, so we’re like 4 years and a week old or something like that.
I know this is on your website, but in your own words, what sets White Stag Realty apart from others?
We really give a poop. Like genuinely, although we are a for-profit business, this thing was kinda born from Jeff and I both feeling like in many instances, 6% or more being paid to a listing firm is unjustifiable. It’s a very unpopular opinion, especially if you ask the agencies that still push their people to charge 6% on every transaction. But man…it’s been 6% for WAY too long. Agents in the 90’s were charging 6%+, and that might have made more sense. They didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have bluetooth-enabled lockboxes. They didn’t have cell phones! Gah! The process now has gotten SO streamlined that we felt like two things should have happened by now – commission should have come down and the number of deals an agent could sell in a year should have gone up.
So although, again, this is a profitable venture, we have saved our clients, versus a 6% competitor, over $750,000 in realtor fees in 4 years! It’s insane! And we’re doing it, albeit I’m biased, the right way. We train a LOT. We generate leads through search engine optimization that we can then provide to our agents (because although the training is a high-level program we put the agents through, learning by doing is vital in our profession). We support our agents from start to finish on every deal, and we see it reflected in the customer experience as well, as we have NEVER received less than a 5-star review on Google.
The last piece of giving a poop is agent retention. The industry average is mind-blowing. On average…75% of licensees are either not in the industry within 2 years of getting their license, or are still not in real estate on a full-time basis. 75%!!! If you know 4 people that got their real estate license, 3 won’t make it. That’s insane. Sea turtles have a better ratio of survival. So White Stag, again probably through training and being able to generate leads organically, has only lost 5 of 23 total agents. Ever. Where the industry is about 75% every year, we average less than 10% each year.
You originally started in Indiana, right? Why the move to Charlotte?
Well, the personal reason is I could only endure so many winters. Literally this past week, we had a day where Charlotte was like 66 degrees and sunny, and Indy was 26 degrees with snow on the ground.
But professionally, I would say there were two motivations. First, Charlotte is a more expensive market, so the thought is our low commission offering would be even more appealing here (an Indy client stands to usually save about $2,500-5,000 with us versus our competitors in that market, and a Charlotte client stands to save about $4,000-8,000). Second, it is our goal to explore franchising at some point in the future and literally sell our brand to others in other states. Well, I can show the success in Indy all day long. But if I could show the success in TWO states, it’s pretty tough to argue at that point with the model being free from geographical constraints.
What makes you passionate about your business?
I think I have two personality traits that are generally not great traits to have. I am undiagnosed ADHD (my therapist can’t formally diagnose me, but acknowledged I have a lot of the symptoms) AND I have an addictive personality (thank gosh they don’t allow sports gambling in NC yet). But what I’ve found is that even bad traits can manifest positively. Real estate satiates BOTH of these traits I have.
The ADHD side of me is pleased with constantly having things to learn, new technology, and a million different avenues I could go with the business. Today, as I write this is a great example. It’s almost 10pm. My day has consisted of finding a missing legal description for a home in Indianapolis, learning about short sales and foreclosures, hosting a team meeting where we discussed different mistakes we had made recently on transactions, discussed selling a home in Kannapolis with a person who has a deep-rooted hatred for realtors, dealt with a party threatening to take legal action against my clients over something silly, released a listing that was monopolizing my time, and reviewed end of year financials with my business partner. All of that energy and that desire to constantly swivel my head to the next thing has been satisfied for the day.
The addictive personality is simple – I like this job a lot, and I can honestly delve into it for hours on end. Even when there’s nothing to do, I’m tweaking rows and columns in the endless spreadsheets I’ve created to help track the business. I always keep literature, whether it be state laws or local MLS governing documents, on standby for down moments. I’m addicted to it, and there’s forever plenty to feed the addiction.
So again…I think I’m passionate, because it plays to the positive parts of me (the intelligence and humor and leadership that I feel are so expected of someone in my position, that I don’t dwell on them too much) and the negative parts too!
What’s something someone looking to buy or sell their home should know right now?
Toughest question in the list. I don’t know.
No, really, that’s my answer. I don’t know. Further, I’ll say this – NO ONE KNOWS. No one knows anything. I’m serious when I say that the ONE thing real estate has taught me above all else is that no one knows.
A seller asks a Realtor what their home would sell for. We don’t know. We guess. We can educate and say there are two aspects to pricing a home – what price will we get a buyer, and also will the home appraise for that price? We don’t know either. We make an educated guess.
A buyer asks their agent what’s a fair offer for a home they’re interested in. We don’t know. We guess. OBVIOUSLY…the more you offer, the higher your odds. So what a buyer is really asking is, “What’s the least I can offer and still get this home?” We don’t know. We make an educated guess.
A home inspector points out that the home you’re under contract to buy has polypropylene plumbing and that it’s a major defect that requires additional inspection from a licensed plumber. You call a plumber. The plumber looks at it and says they wouldn’t mess with it and that it’s not an issue until it’s an issue. You call another plumber. They tell you to re-plumb the whole house. The house is going to be re-plumbed with Pex plumbing, which hasn’t been in residential properties long enough to know if it’s going to be a long-term solution either. No one knows.
The home you’re buying appraised for $70k below the contract price. You’re shook to your core. Is the home REALLY worth that much less than you offered? Your lender and Realtor advise that the first appraiser had no clue what they were doing and advise you order a second appraisal. The second appraisal comes in $10k ABOVE the contract price. So who was right? No one knows.
It’s literally the craziest thing to me, but we’re in this field or industry where everyone professes to be an expert, but it’s so largely rooted in opinion. Opinion of what homes are worth. Opinion of if issues are really issues or not, etc. To quote the great Rick Sanchez of Earth C-137: “Sometimes science is more art than science. A lot of people don’t get that.
What is your favorite thing about Charlotte?
- Leroy Fox fried chicken
- The complete void of winter
- The roads! Indy has straight roads only and very few trees. So I’d leave my home that was like 20 minutes west of downtown, and I could see my destination the whole way. In Charlotte, all the roads are curvy and windy, and there are mature trees everywhere, so you never really see where you’re going til you get there. A much more exciting drive.
- I love that no one is from Charlotte. It’s a great big shared experience that we’re all regularly interacting with people from all over. I was nervous when we moved here that my lack of a southern twang would make me stick out, and it just…absolutely hasn’t.